The right to picket, provided as a fundamental freedom under Article 37 of the Constitution, is not listed as one of those that are limited within the meaning of Article 24. The country’s Supreme Law does not limit the right to demonstrate, present petitions and move the court (in different capacities), among other fundamental freedoms.
Accordingly, the maandamano the country has been witnessing in recent weeks following a call by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition are not and can never be illegal. It is therefore misguided that the police have decided to rein terror on innocent Kenyans exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed right is illegal and amounts to the government using state apparatus to oppress the citizens.
The Kenya Kwanza regime leadership led by, none other than, the President has been on a path of baying for protesters’ blood in the name of dealing with their opponents. They have been consistently calling out retired President Uhuru Kenyatta as the financier of the Raila Odinga-led demonstrations.
As if the deaths of innocent protesters as a result of police misuse of guns is not enough, the government has now resorted to arbitrary arrests and holding perceived detractors incommunicado. The arrests of legislators Babu Owino and Godffrey Osotsi as well as Odinga’s personal aide is unacceptable, as is the detention of bloggers Pauline Njoroge and her friend Nduta Kangethe, just hours after a reported incident at the home of Uhuru’s son just pay testament to a government that is bent on ‘revenge’.
Ethnic cleansing, allegedly, by the police in Kisumu and other counties has no place in modern-day Kenya and it must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
Journalists are being harassed and intimidated not to do their work, media owners are being blackmailed that they would lose government advertisements and other excesses being witnessed are signs of dictatorship and Kenyans must resist the attempt by the Ruto administration.
This is the time for the civil society to be emboldened in calling out the government, the clergy to stand to be counted, the student bodies to rise up against the injustices and the media to be tenacious in playing its role. Professional bodies and labour movements must not sleep on their laurels.
Of course, there are those Ruto supporters who are cheering on the injustices and brutality of the state against its citizens through oppressive measures and strong hand tactics and it may seem right or convenient because their blind loyalty is being rewarded with money from public coffers but there comes a time when the wolf you feed will turn against you.
Patriot Okiya Omtata, the Busia Senator, has amplified the mantra that never celebrate injustice even if it is against your enemy and Kenya Kwanza sympathizers have been fast (in their signature fashion) to dismiss him but there comes a time to look beyond the self and put the interests of the nation first as the late Honorable George Saitoti once remarked.
The goings-on are very bad signs for the country, the political class and their supporters are beating war drums louder than ever and unless there is a deliberate concerted effort to stand in the way of this government by the legally-established checkmate institutions in the judiciary and parliament, there is a real danger that Ruto will become the strong leader that Kenya had in Moi before the return of pluralism in 1992.
And, the often arrogant middle class that thinks that rising against government is for the hois polois must wake up and smell the coffee.